“The Insanity of Cain,” by Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge, an inimitable satire on the feebleness of our jury system and the absurd pretence of “temporary insanity,” must wait for that encyclopaedia. And her “Miss Molony on the Chinese Question” is known and admired by every one, including the Prince of Wales, who was fairly convulsed by its fun, when brought out by our favorite elocutionist, Miss Sarah Cowell, who had the honor of reading before royalty.
I regretfully omit the “Peterkin Letters,” by Lucretia P. Hale, and time famous “William Henry Letters,” by Mrs. Abby Morton Diaz. The very best bit from Miss Sallie McLean would be how “Grandma Spicer gets Grandpa Ready for Sunday-school,” from the “Cape Cod Folks;” but why not save space for what is not in everybody’s mouth and memory? This is equally true of Mrs. Cleaveland’s “No Sects in Heaven,” which, like Arabella Wilson’s “Sextant,” goes the rounds of all the papers every other year as a fresh delight.
Marietta Holley, too, must be allowed only a brief quotation. “Samantha” is a family friend from Mexico to Alaska. Mrs. Metta Victoria Victor, who died recently, has written an immense amount of humorous sketches. Her “Miss Slimmens,” the boarding-house keeper, is a marked character, and will be remembered by many.
I will select a few “samples,” unsatisfactory because there is so much more just as good, and then give room for others less familiar.
MISS LUCINDA’S PIG.
BY ROSE TERRY COOKE.
“You don’t know of any poor person who’d like to have a pig, do you?” said Miss Lucinda, wistfully.
“Well, the poorer they was, the quicker they’d eat him up, I guess—ef they could eat such a razor-back.”
“Oh, I don’t like to think of his being eaten! I wish he could be got rid of some other way. Don’t you think he might be killed in his sleep, Israel?”
“I think it’s likely it would wake him up,” said he, demurely. “Killin’ ‘s killin’, and a critter can’t sleep over it ‘s though ‘twas the stomachache. I guess he’d kick some, ef he was asleep—and screech some, too!”
“Dear me!” said Miss Lucinda, horrified at the idea. “I wish he could be sent out to run in the woods. Are there any good woods near here, Israel?”
“I don’t know but what he’d as lieves be slartered to once as to starve an’ be hunted down out in the lots. Besides, there ain’t nobody as I knows of would like a hog to be a-rootin’ round among their turnips and young wheat.”
“Well, what I shall do with him I don’t know!” despairingly exclaimed Miss Lucinda. “He was such a dear little thing when you bought him, Israel! Do you remember how pink his pretty little nose was—just like a rosebud—and how bright his eyes were, and his cunning legs? And now he’s grown so big and fierce! But I can’t help liking him, either.”
“He’s a cute critter, that’s sartain; but he does too much rootin’ to have a pink nose now, I expect; there’s consider’ble on ‘t, so I guess it looks as well to have it gray. But I don’t know no more’n you do what to do abaout it.”
“If I could only get rid of him without knowing what became of him!” exclaimed Miss Lucinda, squeezing her forefinger with great earnestness, and looking both puzzled and pained.
“If Mees Lucinda would pairmit?” said a voice behind her.
She turned round to see Monsieur Leclerc on his crutches, just in the parlor-door.
“I shall, mees, myself dispose of piggie, if it please. I can. I shall have no sound; he shall to go away like a silent snow, to trouble you no more, never!”
“Oh, sir, if you could! But I don’t see how!”
“If mees was to see, it would not be to save her pain. I shall have him to go by magique to fiery land.”
Fairy-land, probably. But Miss Lucinda did not perceive the equivoque.
“Nor yet shall I trouble Meester Israyel. I shall have the aid of myself and one good friend that I have; and some night, when you rise of the morning, he shall not be there.”
Miss Lucinda breathed a deep sigh of relief.
“I am greatly obliged—I mean, I shall be,” said she.
“Well, I’m glad enough to wash my hands on ‘t,” said Israel. “I shall hanker arter the critter some, but he’s a-gettin’ too big to be handy; ‘n it’s one comfort about critters, you ken git rid on ‘em somehaow when they’re more plague than profit. But folks has got to be let alone, excep’ the Lord takes ‘em; an’ He generally don’t see fit.”—_From Somebody’s Neighbors._
A GIFT HORSE.
BY ROSE TERRY COOKE.
“Well, he no need to ha’ done it, Sary. I’ve told him more’n four times he hadn’t ought to pull a gun tow’rds him by the muzzle on’t. Now he’s up an’ did it once for all.”
“He won’t never have no chance to do it again, Scotty, if you don’t hurry up after the doctor,” said Sary, wiping her eyes on her dirty calico apron, thereby adding an effective shadow under their redness.
“Well, I’m a-goin’, ain’t I? But ye know yerself ‘twon’t do to go so fur on eend, ‘thout ye’re vittled consider’ble well.”
So saying, he fell to at the meal she had interrupted, hot potatoes, cold pork, dried venison, and blueberry pie vanishing down his throat with an alacrity and dispatch that augured well for the thorough “vittling” he intended, while Sary went about folding chunks of boiled ham, thick slices of brown bread, solid rounds of “sody biskit,” and slab-sided turnovers in a newspaper, filling a flat bottle with whiskey, and now and then casting a look at the low bed where young Harry McAlister lay, very much whiter than the sheets about him, and quite as unconscious of surroundings, the blood oozing slowly through such bandages as Scott Peck’s rude surgery had twisted about a gunshot-wound in his thigh, and brought to close tension by a stick thrust through the folds, turned as tight as could be borne, and strapped into place by a bit of coarse twine.
It was a long journey paddling up the Racquette River, across creek and carry, with the boat on his back, to the lakes, and then from Martin’s to “Harri’tstown,” where he knew a surgeon of repute from a great city was spending his vacation. It was touch-and-go with Harry before Scott and Dr. Drake got back. Sary had dosed him with venison-broth, hot and greasy, weak whiskey and water, and a little milk (only a little), for their cow was old and pastured chiefly on leaves and twigs, and she only came back to the shanty when she liked or needed to come, so their milk supply was uncertain, and Sary dared not leave her patient long enough to row to the end of Tupper’s Lake, where the nearest cow was kept. But youth has a power of recovery that defies circumstance, and Dr. Drake was very skilful. Long weeks went by, and the green woods of July had brightened and faded into October’s dim splendor before Harry McAlister could be carried up the river and over to Bartlett’s, where his mother had been called to meet him. She was a widow, and he her only child; and, though she was rather silly and altogether unpractical, she had a tender, generous heart, and was ready to do anything possible for Scott and Sarah Peck to show her gratitude for their kindness to her boy. She did not consult Harry at all. He had lost much blood from his accident and recovered strength slowly. She kept everything like thought or trouble out of his way as far as she could, and when the family physician found her heart was set on taking him to Florida for the winter, because he looked pale and her grandmother’s aunt had died of consumption, Dr. Peet, like a wise man, rubbed his hands together, bowed, and assured her it would be the very thing. But something must be done for the Pecks before she went away. It occurred to her how difficult it must be for them to row everywhere in a small boat. A horse would be much better. Even if the roads were not good they could ride, Sarah behind Scott. And so useful in farming, too. Her mind was made up at once. She dispatched a check for three hundred dollars to Peter Haas, her old coachman, who had bought a farm in Vermont with his savings, and retired, with the cook for his wife, into the private life of a farmer. Mrs. McAlister had much faith in Peter’s knowledge of horses and his honesty. She wrote him to buy a strong, steady animal, and convey it to Scott Peck, either sending him word to come up to Bartlett’s after it, or taking it down the river; but, at any rate, to make sure he had it. If the check would not pay all expenses, he was to draw on her for more. Peter took the opportunity to get rid of a horse he had no use for in winter; a beast restive as a racer when not in daily use, but strong enough for any work, and steady enough if he had work. Two hundred and fifty dollars was the price now set on his head, though Peter had bought him for seventy-five, and thought him dear at that. The remaining fifty was ample for expenses; but Peter was a prudent German and liked a margin. There was no difficulty in getting the horse as far as Martin’s, and by dint of patient insistence Peter contrived to have him conveyed to Bartlett’s; but here he rested and sent a messenger down to Scott Peck, while he himself returned to Bridget at the farm, slowly cursing the country and the people as he went his way, for his delays and troubles had been numerous.